A Lesson About Gross Health Manipulation Tactics

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I debated whether or not I should bother to share the information in this post with you. On one hand, I choose to put my focus and energy on the willing – the people who want to hear about what’s really in their food and how they can make healthy changes to their lifestyle. On the other hand, there are some serious detractors that do not want the truth about our food to be heard. They are working as agents for the biotech and chemical industry to prevent information about the risks of using GMOs and their products to come to light. I decided to publish this post because I want you to be aware of who these detractors are – and why they can’t be trusted.

My recent trip to Hawaii is the perfect example of how these detractors work…

A few months ago, I was invited to speak by Hawaii Center for Food Safety (Hawaii CFS) for an event called the “Ethics of Eating”. This is the Hawaii chapter of the Center For Food Safety (CFS), a nonprofit organization that promotes organic and sustainable agriculture. They fight back against the corrupt food system with petitions and have bravely taken legal action to force our government to create stronger regulations in regards to GMOs and chemicals that are harming our bodies, the environment, and farm animals.

Hawaii is a hot bed for the research and development of new chemically intensive GMOs and they are a testing ground for many experimental chemicals and crops – it is essentially “ground-zero”. Five of the largest chemical companies are suing the counties of Hawaii to keep their testing secret. Much of the work that Hawaii CFS is doing is focusing on the public health impacts of the pesticides and herbicides used on GMOs, and because of this, they are heavily targeted by the biotech companies who are profiting off of these chemicals and technologies. In 2015, over 100 Monsanto employees crashed a CFS presentation in Hawaii in an attempt to intimidate the presenters. This is how biotech operatives operate, and CFS is very aware of their tactics. The people that work with CFS are very well respected and fearless activists in an increasingly aggressive climate.

I was thrilled I was invited to Hawaii to speak, yet I had no idea the absolute chaos that would ensue when they began promoting the event.

As soon as my upcoming appearance was announced, the biotech industry quickly engaged and astroturfing began on the Hawaii CFS Facebook page. They began receiving hundreds of insulting and inflammatory comments – mainly criticizing me personally, characterizing me as “hilariously uninformed,” “a crazy food blogger,” and telling Hawaii CFS that they promote “pseudoscience” and “fearmongering” for bringing me in to speak. 

“Vani’s visit to Hawai‘i would unleash the most powerful display of the pro-GMO public relations machine that I have witnessed since taking my position with CFS.” ~ Ashley Lukens, Director of Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety

This just goes to show the great lengths that the GMO industry will go to in an attempt to discredit our work and make it difficult for anyone to ever ask me to speak again. They were defaming me in an attempt to harm my future speaking engagements – but they didn’t stop there.

24 hours before I was scheduled to take the stage, I was informed by Hawaii CFS that the pro-GMO and satire activist group “March Against Myths About Modification” (MAMyths) launched a campaign to sabotage the event.

The tickets to the event were free, but there were a limited quantity available as the venue could only accommodate a certain number of people. When word spread that I was coming to speak, MAMyths asked their followers to reserve blocks of tickets using fake names and fake emails so that it would appear to be “sold out” and that we would be speaking to an empty venue.

They reserved over 1,500 tickets using names like “Fraud Babe,” “Organic is Dumb,” “Susi Creamcheese,” and “Harriett Tubman” from traced IP addresses outside of Hawaii and overseas in the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Thailand, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

They were unsuccessful because Hawaii CFS discovered where these bogus requests were coming from and were able to easily cancel their reservations. Yet, it was clear that we struck a cord and they were trying to disrupt the event.

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Who is March Against Myths About Modification? 

MAMyths is a spin-off group and “partner” of Biology Fortified – a website which advocates strongly for GMOs and who has been working with the PR group Cornell Alliance For Science in protesting the brave work being done by U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) which exposes hidden relationships between biotech companies, scientists, and PR firms.

Biology Fortified received a grant from the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) – a group sponsored by biotech companies. They claim most of their operational funding comes from “individual personal donations” and that the authors are all unpaid “volunteers”.

MAMyths describes themselves as “Radicals for science utilizing grassroots organization and direct action for social change” and are basically satirizing the March Against Monsanto movement. They attend Marches in their “I Love GMOs” t-shirts and protest talks given by anti-GMO food activists such as Vandana Shiva.

Industry front groups like the American Council for Science and Health (funded in part by Bayer and Syngenta) have promoted MAMyths and encourage people to join them. They have also been featured in the Cornell Alliance for Science newsletter – a PR arm of the biotech industry that defends companies like Monsanto ruthlessly. Why do biotech and agrichemical companies support MAMyths? Is there more than meets the eye to this relationship?

The founders of MAMyths are Karl Haro von Mogel, Kavin Senapathy and David Sutherland

Karl Haro von Mogel works exhaustively to defend biotechnology (GMOs) and has been called a “leader” by Cami Ryan, Social Science Lead at Monsanto. Yet, it is unclear how he makes his living doing this work, as supposedly he is a “volunteer” for these organizations. He was on the faculty for the Biotechnology Literacy Project – a boot camp that trained individuals to “engage the media” and also to “appear as experts in local legislative and government hearings”, sponsored by the Monsanto-backed organization “Academics Review”.  Karl also writes articles for other pro-Monsanto websites, such as Genetic Literacy Project.

Why would Karl show up to record our recent presentation?

Karl showed up at my recent panel discussion with USRTK at the Heirloom Festival on September 8th, 2016 in California and proceeded to film and record our presentation (on 2 devices) even after he was asked to stop recording. Did he travel all the way from his hometown in Wisconsin just to record our discussion? Who paid for him to be there and why?

This is not the first time he has tried to harass activists at this event. He did the same in 2014 and offered to reimburse the entrance fee of the event. This begs the question again, who is MAMyth funded by?

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Kavin Senapathy: Who is she really defending?

Kavin likes to call herself a “science defender” and swings a cartoon sword, but she is not a scientist by trade. Kavin studied Business Marketing at University of Wisconsin. She works as an “Advisor” for her father’s company, Genome International Corporation, which holds several patents that are likely licensed to biotech companies. She also works as a writer for several pro-GMO blogs like Grounded Parents and Skepchick.

She once emailed me for comment on a story she was writing and refused to answer my questions about her conflicts of interest. Just like her friend Kevin Folta, she denies industry ties… but a picture says a thousand words…

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Isn’t it a bit strange to see her hanging out with Monsanto’s social media and PR friends if she has no ties to them?

Kavin is a spokeswoman for “Chow Babe” hate Facebook page.

Kavin has taken a big interest in me personally. She spends a very significant amount of time criticizing me and the work of the Food Babe Army. She acts as the spokesperson for a Facebook page that was created solely to criticize and parody me all day long, every day, sometimes being severely offensive.

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Kavin co-authored an entire book against the food revolution and me

Her social media presence gained the attention of the NPR – The Salt Blog, allowing her to be interviewed and quoted in a heavily circulated hit piece against me. Since focusing on me had gotten Kavin so much attention, she proceeded to co-author an entire book about me called “Fear Babe”, which includes a forward written by none other than Kevin Folta – a scientist that was caught red-handed accepting cash from Monsanto for his “outreach”.

Kavin is a busy girl! Spending so much of her time trying to discredit me and our movement. You’ve got to ask yourself, what motivates her to do this?

More importantly: Why does Forbes allow Kavin to write articles for them without appropriate conflict of interest disclosure?

Kavin has recently published several articles in Forbes (a website that reaches millions) in which she spews hate for organic food and farming, and bashes non-GMO food activists like me over and over again:

“3 Tactics Donald Trump Shares With Dr. Oz, The Food Babe, And Other Snake Oil Salesmen” – Forbes, 10/5/16

“The Food Babe Is A Bully And Cotton Incorporated Isn’t Going To Take It” – Forbes, 5/27/16

“Del Monte Joins Food Babe Army, Shuns Fruit-Saving Technology” – Forbes, 4/5/16

“The Toxic ‘Chemical Hypocrisy’ Of Food Babe, Joseph Mercola And Mark Hyman” – Forbes, 12/3/15

In Kavin’s libelous articles, her “sources” are PR operatives and people who are paid to protect the profits of the big food and GMO companies. For instance, she cites “experts” from:

Are these people “Independent Experts”? Absolutely not!

In her earlier Forbes pieces, she co-wrote them with Henry Miller, a former FDA employee who founded the Office of Biotechnology, and is also associated with several front groups that ferociously defend the use of GMOs and pesticides. His resume includes accolades from Philip Morris for defending the tobacco industry. Henry has been writing pro-GMO articles for Forbes for over 10 years. Why did Henry take Kavin under his wing? Did he help her secure a position at Forbes? Does Forbes know about her relationships to Monsanto and PR firms? Do they know that she heads up a Facebook group that works with front groups? Are her conflicts of interest disclosed? Does Forbes know she’s the leader of a Facebook group encouraging people to use fake names to get fake tickets for an event to harass activists? How can Forbes allow someone to write for them who engages in unethical tactics like this?

Contact Forbes and ask them to disclose Kavin’s ties to industry

If you think this behavior is as shady as I do, join me in contacting Forbes here and letting them know how you feel about Kavin and her undisclosed ties to the industry. We need to speak up when we see corrupt reporting to encourage media outlets to do better due diligence and to inspire real investigative journalism. I tried to get her to disclose her ties, but my email went unanswered. After my questions about her conflicts of interest went unanswered she continued to write defamatory pro-industry articles about our work without contacting me for comment.

Who else has been behind the wheel at MAMyths?

Reportedly, a social media consultant and contributor for MAMyths is Jayson Merkley, who has a background in writing and marketing. He is a Fellow of the prestigious-sounding group The Cornell Alliance for Science, in which he completed their leadership training.

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Who is the Cornell Alliance For Science, and why do they train “leaders” to harass food activists?

The Cornell Alliance For Science sounds prestigious, right??? In reality, they are a relatively new front group leading the charge in the pro-GMO propaganda machine.

They are the “public relations arm for the agrichemical industry” insidiously hosted at one of the most renowned universities in the country. Their goal is to “depolarize the GMO debate” and their stance is squarely pro-GMO and pro-chemical.

The Alliance claims to have zero industry ties, yet their partners include several organizations funded by biotechnology companies. For instance, one partner is ISAAA, who receives funding from Monsanto and CropLife, a trade organization for biotech. See how they try to obscure affiliations like these?

They want to gag activists into silence and refuse to debate REAL independent scientists.

Although their stated mission is to depolarize the GMO debate, when it comes down to it they refuse to debate scientists or activists who are critical of GMOs unless they are in complete control. A GMO debate was organized on the Cornell University campus, and no one from Cornell Alliance For Science or Cornell faculty would agree to debate the “benefits” of GMOs, despite numerous email requests by the student coordinator. They didn’t even need to travel! The debate was brought to their campus but they refused.

Could it be that they know their arguments are defenseless?

They recently got called out by 67 New York State farmers who sent a letter to Cornell, urging them to evict the Alliance for Science for their biased and unscientific attitude towards GMOs.

“Nothing in the materials or programs of “The Alliance for Science” is anything but entirely pro-biotechnology. They are without balance or significant critical evaluation of the range of agricultural systems and technologies that exist in food production today.” ~ Elizabeth Henderson, organic farmer from Wayne County, New York

Meanwhile… they are training “leaders” to exploit the media.

The Cornell Alliance for Science provides leadership training to students, farmers, and scientists, many of whom have a background in marketing, business, or journalism, to use their communication skills to promote the use of GMOs along with chemical-intrusive agriculture and to slam activists that are fighting for more sustainable practices. They also provide journalism fellowships with cash awards to “promote in-depth contextualized reporting”. They put on a front that they are “activists” trying to help farmers, when they are actually just conducting PR work for the biotech industry. It’s disgusting and appalling.

There are several scientists, bloggers, farmers and social media personalities that appear to be legitimate, but have strong ties (and sometimes covert financial relations) with the biotech industry and their PR firms. Usually their relationship to each other runs deep and they take specific steps to hide their affiliations with the industry. Their goal is to fool the masses into believing industry propaganda.

The industry has done consumer research which shows that most people tend to trust farmers and publicly-funded scientists for information about GMOs, especially if they are a mom. Armed with this information, the industry hides their tracks and tries to fool the masses with front groups largely comprised of university scientists, moms, and farmers.

Is this who you trust for information about GMOs?

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{Above slides presented by the front group Center for Food Integrity at IFT16}

The makings of a GMO industry front group and how they hide their affiliations to the industry:

1.  A biotech or agrochemical company donates money to a foundation or charity that will give the appearance of being independent, but will act as a funnel for their money going forward.

2.  This foundation will go on to provide funding for a new “scientific” organization to be established to “communicate science” to the public. Other times, a PR firm is hired to create this organization. They may even create multiple child organizations down the line to further hide their connections to biotech. These are all front groups. See examples here.

3.  This new front group will create a respectable looking website and social media accounts, stating that their mission is to spread the truth about science and food.

4.  The front group will train farmers, bloggers, and scientists (if they are a mom, this is a bonus!) on how to work with them to help spread their messages about the “safety” of GMOs, food additives, factory farming practices, or pesticides. Sometimes they are paid or given other accommodations to do this work for the organization.

5.  The organization will call those that they work with and train “experts”. They will recommend them to journalists who are writing for major media publications and their ties to the industry are not readily disclosed. They will be touted as independent.

6.  These trained farmers and scientists go out and write for their own blogs and sometimes branch out, writing for bigger publications such as Forbes. Likewise, they create Facebook groups and pages that will be used to poke fun at activists (such as myself) and try to disrupt the work we are doing. There are countless food-related satire and astroturf pages like this online right now.

This process has been duplicated dozens of times and will continue as long as they are not exposed!

As you can see, these people are just agents for biotech. Whether or not they are paid directly by them, they are doing their bidding.

I think it is absolutely mandatory for journalists to investigate and further probe these connections. Judging by the way these groups and individuals mock me publicly and troll our work, it is clear they are working together and have an agenda.

The bottomline? We want a safer and healthier food system, and some people want to keep the food system just like it is today – broken, corrupt and full of unregulated food additives and chemicals that only improve the bottom line of food and biotech companies and not our health. We clearly have different missions.

I hope that this information gives you more courage to use your voice online to elicit change. If you do find yourself the victim of their trolling behavior, here’s what to do. They want us to stop and be silenced. We truly are creating a safer food system, and they are freaking out!!! That is why they are spewing so much vitriol towards us – they simply have no other options left.

Please share this post! The more people aware of these disgusting tactics, the better we are equipped to determine fact from fiction when it comes to finding ultimate health – which is our goal after all.

Xo,

Vani

P.S. By the way – The Ethics of Eating event in Hawaii was so amazing! We had a packed house, and standing room only! We streamed it live on Facebook, and it was a huge success. Thank you Hawaii-Center For Food Safety for the incredible hospitality and of course, for hiring additional security to keep the event on track!

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Ethics of Eating at The University of Hawaii, 09/15/2016

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